Something I'd be interested in hearing about is how law professors tend to view their students, including whether they only really care about the top x%, so that bad outcomes for everyone else don't really matter to professors.This is an important question, and the answer helps explain why legal education is a mess right now. Of course at the individual level the answer is going to vary considerably, but as always what matters for the purposes of institutional analysis isn't individual behavior per se, but rather the structural effects institutions have on that behavior.
All of which is to say that, while the extent to which law faculty are involved with or aware of the career outcomes of their students varies a lot, law school is now structured in such a way as to guarantee that the vast majority of faculty will have no idea what almost all of their former students are doing, even a year or two after graduation.
One of the reasons for this has to do with the historical structure of legal education, while another involves relatively recent developments. The historical reason why law faculty have no idea what the vast majority of their students go on to do is the high faculty to student ratio that characterizes legal education. At most schools, the majority of classes include many dozens of students and no formal interaction between faculty and students outside those classes. If you teach a 75-person class, a student who doesn't volunteer in that class on a regular basis and/or come to talk to you during office hours (and this describes the vast majority of students) is going to be invisible to you, unless you're one of those Bill Clintonesque people with a photographic memory for names and faces and the uncanny ability to make people that you don't actually know at all feel as if they're longtime friends.
In other words, the structure of legal education guarantees that most law faculty will know little or nothing about the vast majority of students who pass through their classes when they're actually in their classes, let alone after they graduate. In this context it may be worth noting that I've been in the very same business as my former law teachers for more than 20 years now, and, with two exceptions, I have had exactly zero contact with any of them in the years since I graduated (I can only imagine how much contact they have with actual lawyers).
Which brings me to the second, and under current circumstances much more important, reason why law faculty have no idea what the vast majority of their former students are or aren't doing, even in the year or two immediately after their graduation. A senior colleague remarked to me recently that, 35 years ago, it would have been far more difficult for the faculty at our school to remain as insulated from what's happening to our graduates as we are now. 35 years ago the University of Colorado, like the vast majority of law schools at the time, was a far more modest operation in every sense than it is today. It lacked almost all academic pretension, and while it probably did no better a job than we do now of actually preparing people to practice law, at least the institution at that time was under no illusions that it had any more exalted purpose. (It was also, not coincidentally, ten times less expensive to attend in real terms).
One consequence of this was that the faculty at the time were much more connected to the state and local bar than their successors are today. A generation ago the average law faculty member drew his professional identity from his connection to the legal profession far more than he did from his connection to academia, which was almost always largely nominal (This was, according to Richard Posner, even the case at the Harvard Law School, let alone at the typical law school). Under such conditions, I am told, it would have been quite impossible for the typical law faculty member to remain as relatively clueless about the current employment catastrophe as most law faculty have managed to remain. As Law Office Computing puts it:
We need to wake up the sleepers, that is clear. In my experience, most of the sleepers are hard working, good hearted people who really care about students and the institution. The problem is that too few of them have contact with the outside world, particularly small firm and solo practitioners. I had the good fortune to work with the local bar association on many matters over the years, but my experience is not shared by many of my colleagues. The bottom line is that we need to do a lot of educating the educators before things will change. But, they will change. There have been several "paradigm shifts" in legal education in my 44 years and I sense another one coming soon!One inevitable cost of law schools become more self-consciously academic places rather than professional training schools is this increasing loss of connection to the profession itself. If the basic economic structure of the profession is changing -- and there are many signs it is, in ways that far transcend the current recessionary crisis -- that disconnect is growing increasingly costly to both law graduates and (eventually) law schools, who continue to function according to a business model that makes less and less sense.
I also want to echo Law Office Computing's comments about the good intentions of the typical law faculty member. The scam blogs are full of comments from enraged graduates claiming that law faculty are "sociopaths" and "criminals," who are living high off the hog while scamming their students into life-wrecking debt. These comments are in a sense understandable, but they are also absurd. (That they are absurd is no reason to dismiss them, however. If some of your former students are inclined to view you as a sociopath and criminal because of the nature of the economic relationship between yourself and them this should, to put it mildly, give you some pause about that relationship).
The average law faculty member is no more likely to be a sociopath than the average member of any other profession (he or she is also no more likely to be a person of better than average moral character either, of course). The problem is that the average law faculty member has become structurally disconnected from the economic realities of the practice (or increasingly non-practice) of law, as it's experienced by his or her graduates. "Caring," at the level of individual empathy, about what happens to former law students, is no substitute for the kind of institutional reform that will decrease that structural disconnection.